Today is my mom’s birthday. I went to wish her in the morning and she wasn’t in her room. I wondered where she had gone. Usually, she’d be fussing about, dusting this, arranging that, making me some coffee. Mornings were supremely busy for her – not that the rest of the day wasn’t. She has never enjoyed napping in the afternoon and usually undertakes massive projects like turning out old cupboards, finishing an entire novel, cleaning my bookshelves, making me a new dress, or sorting out Papa’s documents. And these projects tend to continue all through the afternoon, often alongside me, both of us working steadily on something or the other.
But the room was quiet this morning. And then I realized – she wasn’t here. I had been thinking about another time, another life. Today is a birthday we will not be able to spend together.
A few years ago, we had gone to watch a movie on this day – Bombay Talkies. We had managed only front-row tickets, thanks to the weekend rush in Delhi. But she enjoyed every minute. We had lunch and donuts and long glasses of iced lemonade. Back at home, my nana and nani had done their own little celebration – nani had cooked some amazing chicken.
“Hey, but isn’t that MY favourite dish?” I asked her.
“It’s mine too!” declared mom.
In my neighbourhood, there live these cool kids who outgrew birthday celebrations in fifth grade. “We are too old for all that now”, they announced, and set off on birthday evenings with friends. They went to fast food joints and colony parks, and eventually to restaurants, nightclubs and bars. And I remained at home, cutting my floral birthday cake and eating the delicious luchi-chicken that nani and mom got ready for me. It was my kind of a birthday celebration, and I loved it. I also made sure everyone in the house got a birthday party – mom, dad, my grandparents, and my favourite doggy who just happens to be made of stuffing.
If Mom and I had been together today, I would have given her a big hug and several kisses. I would have done a little birthday jig and clicked numerous pictures of her, making her pose with her birthday bouquet and gifts. Mom, my birthday girl. My personal slice of heaven amidst the turmoil and strain of everyday life.
But then, memories and thoughts are their own kind of heaven too. When you’re deep enough into them, they almost become tangible. Happy birthday, mum. Hold my hand as I rewind the years to a time when we were together, screaming the house down like little girls.